Virtual World

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What Does Virtual World Mean?

A virtual world is a computer-based online community environment that is designed and shared by individuals so that they can interact in a custom-built, simulated world. Users interact with each other in this simulated world using text-based, two-dimensional or three-dimensional graphical models called avatars. Avatars are graphically rendered using computer graphics imaging (CGI) or any other rendering technology. Individuals control their avatars using input devices like the keyboard, mouse and other specially designed command and simulation gadgets. Today’s virtual worlds are purpose-built for entertainment, social, educational, training and various other purposes.

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All virtual worlds possess the qualities of persistence and interactivity. This enables the users to explore the inherent benefits of socialization and allows them to study human nature and users’ abilities.

A virtual world may also be called a digital world.

Techopedia Explains Virtual World

Initially, virtual worlds were limited to text and document sharing such as in chat rooms and through conferencing systems. With the advancement in two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphics rendering technologies, graphical models called avatars became the hallmark of virtual worlds. Today, virtual worlds depict a world very similar to reality, with real-world rules and real-time actions and communications. Avatars are real-world or fictionally adapted personalized characters that depict humans, pets or other imaginary characters that inhabit virtual worlds. Today’s avatars are three-dimensional, interactive icons that exist in realistic virtual worlds.

There are two types of virtual worlds:

  • Entertainment-Based: The launch of multiplayer 3-D games in the 1990s gave birth to new advancements in interactive virtual worlds. In this category of virtual worlds, users play games through their avatars. These virtual worlds are strongly influenced by fantasy, science fiction, and anime genres of literature and film. Entertainment-based virtual worlds represents the majority of virtual worlds in existence today.
  • Social Interaction-Based: Focuses on user interaction, education and training through simulated worlds. These worlds offer a more open-ended experience such as exploring landscapes, playing adventurous sports, socializing with communities, taking part in political debates or experiments, attending educational sessions, training in a simulated environment and countless other virtual possibilities. Although younger than gaming worlds, these social virtual worlds are quickly gaining popularity, particularly in educational, political, commercial and military organizations.
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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.